Great books are more intelligent than their authors.The books we call classics are Pandora's boxes whose warnings tend to be vindicated by history. One of the most fearsome characters in [Joseph Conrad's 1907 novel] The Secret Agent is Mr Vladimir, theoretician of terrorism, who at some point in the novel suggests a series of outrages: "Let them be directed against buildings for instance," he says, "and that on two conditions." The first is that they must be a fetish, recognized by all the bourgeoisie. And second the attack must be "of a destructive ferocity so absurd as to be incomprehensible, inexplicable, almost unthinkable - in fact, mad."The question remains urgent. See, among others:
I was not in London when the twin towers of the World Trade Center [in New York] fell in September 2001, but later when the war in Iraq was broadcast live on television I watched it from a friend's living room near the Emirates Stadium. Like many, I thought the war was a mistake. Like many, I regretted the atrocities of Abu Ghraib. Like many, I was wounded by the images of the red buses torn apart in the 7th of July . But like very few I remembered the all too believable words of another terrorist pronounces in Conrad's novel: "To break up the superstition and worship of legality should be our aim. Nothing would please me more than to see Inspector Heath shooting us down in broad daylight with the approval of the public. Half the battle would be won then. The disintegration of the old morality would have set in in its very temple."
To what extent did they achieve this, those who attacked New York and London? I do not yet have the answer, but I will not stop asking the question.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
In A London Address, an Artangel podcast recorded in January, the Colombian novelist Juan Gabriel Vásquez says: